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Gov. Greg Abbott vetoes bill requiring children under 2 to ride in rear-facing car seats

Abbott said the measure "is an unnecessary invasion of parental rights and an unfortunate example of over-criminalization."

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Saturday vetoed a bill that would have required children under age 2 to be secured in rear-facing car seats while in a moving vehicle, and would have penalized drivers who fail to follow the new guidelines.

House Bill 448, authored by state Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, "is an unnecessary invasion of parental rights and an unfortunate example of over-criminalization," Abbott said in a veto statement on the legislation.

RELATED: Texas House bill updating car seat law heads to governor's desk

Turner had said the legislation would "help clarify Texas' confusing car seat law and put it in line with best practices and Texas Department of Public Safety, Department of Transportation and Department of State Health Services recommendations." The measure would have provided exceptions for babies and toddlers who are taller than 40 inches, weigh more than 40 pounds or have a medical condition that prevents them from sitting in a rear-facing car seat.

Texas law already requires children younger than 8 years old or shorter than 57 inches to be secured in a car seat, and that the car seat be installed according to the manufacturer's instructions. The current law does not specifically mention car safety guidelines for children under 2 years old.

The American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines recommend children stay in rear-facing car seats for as long as possible.

The Texas Pediatric Society said it's disappointed with Abbott's decision to "ignore the recommendations of pediatricians, law enforcement and countless auto safety experts."

"The bill simultaneously would have meaningfully increased the safety of our youngest, most fragile Texans, as study after study demonstrates the effectiveness of rear-facing seats for infants in a collision," the society said.

State Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo and the Senate sponsor of the bill, had said that under the measure, the first time a driver is pulled over for not having their child in a rear-facing car seat, they would be given a warning. If a driver violates the law a second time, they would be given a citation with a fine between $25 and $250.

"It is not necessary to micromanage the parenting process to such a great extent, much less to criminalize different parenting decisions by Texans," Abbott said in his veto statement.

If the law had passed, Texas would have joined 14 other states that have passed similar car seat regulations.

Critics of the bill said it was unnecessary for the state to regulate how a child sits in a car seat. Terri Hall, a parent who testified against the bill in both Senate and House committee hearings, said the government shouldn’t place “arbitrary” regulations on car seats.

“I feel like the decision needs to be made between myself and my pediatrician about what the best car seat is for my child in the different stages of their life,” Hall said during a hearing of the Senate Transportation Committee.

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This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2019/06/15/Texas-Greg-Abbott-car-seat-rear-facing-bill/.

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